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2 dead, dozens hurt in N.C. plant collapse

GARNER, N.C., June 9 (UPI) -- An inside explosion triggered a roof collapse at a North Carolina food plant Tuesday, killing two people and injuring dozen, authorities said.

Garner Police Sgt. Joe Binns said two deaths had been confirmed using high tech equipment, but the bodies had not been recovered as of 9:30 p.m. EDT. One victim was a woman but the sex of the second wasn't released.

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At least 41 other people were sent to hospitals with injuries, he said.

Binns said 300 people were in the ConAgra plant at the time of the blast, The (Raleigh) News & Observer reported.

Binns said firefighters extinguished a small fire inside the plant, but needed to contain an ammonia leak before search crews could enter the building. The leak didn't pose a threat to the surrounding community, he said.

The cause of the explosion wasn't immediately known.

The 50,000-square-foot plant was formerly owned by GoodMark Foods, based in Raleigh, and is known for making Slim Jim beef jerky products, Raleigh TV station WRAL said.

ConAgra officials said in a statement the company would send a team from its Omaha headquarters to the plant to help determine the cause of the explosion.

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"Our first priority is the safety and health of our employees and the local community," the company said.

Workers inside the facility told The News & Observer the explosion occurred without warning, blowing out doors, collapsing the roof and shaking the plant.

"Everything in that building was moving and all you could smell was this heavy ammonia," said Anthony Spruill, 54, who told the newspaper he was driving a forklift about 500 yards from the blast. "The walls of the building flew outward. The roof went straight down. Cars were crushed. The roofs of trailers in the loading dock were blown off."

The North Carolina Highway Patrol blocked several nearby roads, and hazardous materials teams were responding to contain and clean up leaking chemicals, officials said.

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